People discuss the value placed on specific academic subjects and what is more or less important for today’s youth to be taught in school in order to succeed in life. I am sure it goes without saying that I place a pretty value on History, but I am more than a little biased. This post, however, has nothing to do with the state of education or that whole Humanities vs. Science discussion (though why it always has to be “vs.” beats me). In this instance, when I say value, I mean monetary.
The U.S. National Archives supports a few different blogs, one of which is called The Text Message. Their most recent posting is about the Freedom Train, which traveled the U.S. between 1947 and 1949 bringing history to the country by displaying famous historical documents like the Emancipation Proclamation and the Mayflower compact. The idea alone was enough to keep my interest through the post. Now, we have the internet, but then, this was a major feat in outreach!
The main item in the post which caught my attention, however, was a document they included listing the insurance values of the various documents. It made me really wonder how these amounts were decided upon when no amount of money could restore these documents if they were destroyed. It also brings up issues of the values we place on physical documents. The text of the Declaration of Independence is available everywhere in various formats, yet nothing seems to compare to seeing the actual, original document in person. As a historian, archivist, and avid genealogist, I encounter this seemingly inexplicable attachment to historical artifacts quite frequently, but I do not think that this is a feeling only experienced by those of us of the Historical persuasion. Artifacts and documents have an incredible ability to make one feel connected to intangible ideas and times. Why else would we hold on to ticket stubs and the like?
Of course, if we didn’t, I’d be out of a job.